By Jason Menard
Social media is still in its infancy – and like all infants, the various components of social media are growing and developing at varying rates. While adoption amongst the masses seems to be fairly well advanced, social media’s language skills are woefully underdeveloped.
Now this isn’t another tired old criticism of LOL-speak or the bastardization of the English language by textually active youth. What amazes me is that in today’s world – where people tend take offense to the slightest perceived insult – one social networking term has been allowed to stand without question:
At its best, it’s a status-sucking term that demeans all to whom it’s applied. At worst, it’s a condescending moniker that heralds the advent of classism in a supposedly neutral on-line world. Or, maybe I’m thinking too hard about this – but the point is that we have the ability to do better!
We should be able to self-identify on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. I’m not just a blanket follower, nor do I blindly ‘like’ you – a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t do our social interactions justice, so I think it’s high time for us to insist upon better terminology.
I’m not a follower. I may admire certain people; I may be interested in their comments, but I certainly don’t follow them. Maybe ‘supporter’ would be a better choice. Or, better yet, we look at breaking Twitter down into users’ true intentions:
- The Fan – perfect for those with verified accounts. Face it, you’re not @Alyssa_Milano’s friend, nor does she know who you are. You’re not following her and she has no interest in you (although a man can dream – or continue that dream from when he was 13…), so you are what you are: a fan;
- Consumer/Reader – this can work for companies and content-creators. Generally speaking, if you have @zappos or @guykawasaki on your feed, it’s not because they’re good guys (although they may well be). You’re consuming the content that they’re providing. They’re like virtual newspapers. Just admit it and be honest;
- The Sally Field – It would never be used, but it’s probably the most applicable term. You follow everyone in the hopes of them following you back. To you, the content is secondary; the ‘Followers’ number is all you care about. Your goal is to tell your friends that you’ve exceeded the 50,000 follower mark, so you can prove that the Twitterverse likes you – they really, really like you. The irony is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to only have a couple of real-life friends with whom you can brag;
- Virtual Coupon Clipper – What ever happened to those people who would wake up extra early to get the Sunday paper so that they could take part in the weekly “free stuff” contest? They’ve moved on-line and become ‘followers’ of their favourite brands, stores, and restaurants. The potential of saving 10 per cent on one’s next order of Pad Thai is more than enough reason to pack your timeline to overflowing;
- The Keyboard Quarterback – Newspapers, on-line publications, and other magazines generally have reporters who live-Tweet sporting events. But if you follow one of those feeds, you’ll likely notice another subsection of the audience who are equally, if not more prolific with the Tweets. They are the Keyboard Quarterbacks and they feel the need to provide a running commentary (a virtual play-by-play, if you will) of the sporting even unfolding in front of them. Actually, in front of them is inaccurate – generally, they’re sitting at home on their couch, mouse in one hand, TV remote in the other, ‘live’ Tweeting off of a TV feed;
- The Status Junkie – An off-shot of The Sally Field, the Status Junkie also follows to be followed. But this Twitter user prioritizes quality over quantity. They want the Twitterverse’s big guns to follow them, so that they can reap the rewards of saying, “Yeah, I was chatting with @ThatKevinSmith the other day…” The Twitter Glitterati who only follow a select handful of people are their true targets – and, chances are, The Status Junkie is still liking his or her wounds over not being chosen by @ConanOBrien to be their one and true follower;
Keep in mind that these are just a handful of the representative populations of the Twitterverse. There are those who use it only for work, those who follow and unfollow based solely on the volume of tweets, those who Tweet only to keep in touch with friends, and those who only follow news and information sites and use Twitter as a glorified RSS feed.
This is part one. Next up, I’ll share the Facebook Five (actually, I’m not sure how many I’m going to do, but Facebook Five sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?) So now I turn it over to you. What Twitter Types have you encountered? Are there any noteworthy mentions that I missed?
Break free from being a follower! Define yourself in the comments below.